App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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Smallworld the board game is a fun multiplayer affair that’s kind of like Risk, only with less of a fortitude requirement and an emphasis on constantly changing armies. Smallworld the iPad version of the board game is more or less the same thing; complete with all the various races and special abilities but without all the setup and inevitable cleanup. It’s also unfortunately minus a player count that reaches past two.
As players take controls of the numerous races of Smallworld they’re, also in essence, making history. Each game is broken up into ten rounds. At the end of each player’s turn they earn coins based on how much land their race is occupying (as well as some other possible factors), and at the end of ten rounds the game ends and all the points are tallied. Actually acquiring land is fairly straightforward with players receiving a set number of race tokens and using them to invade. Unoccupied territories need two tokens (sometimes less depending on the environment and racial bonuses) to move into, while occupied territories will need more. Matching the required amount of tokens is an automatic win, but it is also possible to invade with fewer forces and trust in a roll of the dice to make up the difference. Where things start to deviate from “Risk Lite” is once races go into Decline. Rather than take their turn players can opt to abandon their race, collect any coins they’d normally earn for the round, then pick a new one at the start of the next phase. What makes this necessary is the way races in Decline still earn coins for their players each turn for as long as they stay on the board.
The basic mechanics of Smallworld are fantastic enough to be their own reward, but the slight differences are also a bonus. As I’ve mentioned this is a digital game so there’s no setup or cleanup and no slowly counting out tokens. It’s incredibly streamlined but still maintains all the awesome from the board game. Plus there are two more expansions (extra races and abilities) available for in-app purchase to expand the variety even further.
The only real problem with playing Smallworld on the iPad is that it’s only for two players. Or one player and an AI opponent. The clever way the screen reorients to each player from turn to turn is great and all, but this is the kind of game that only gets more fun with a bigger group.
I know the iPad’s screen probably wouldn’t be able to accommodate 3-5 players very well, but the two player limit is still kind of a shame. Other than that, though, it’s an absolutely stellar port of an absolutely stellar board game. One that fans of the genre (and obviously the original) shouldn’t miss.